A lot of people, most especially athletes, have experienced being rubbed the wrong way, quite literally.
This is commonly called chafe, a prevalent and annoying skin irritation that is usually caused by the repeated rubbing of skin against something. It can be unbearably painful and may cause unwarranted uneasiness to move.
Although it is not considered as a serious injury, it may still put you out of action for a couple of days. It may also cause infection if it is not treated the soonest possible. It may cause swelling, crusting or bleeding in severe cases.
The bad news about getting a chafe is that you can have it anywhere on the body, it may be on the thigh, shoulders, underarms and groin area. On the other hand, the good news is that there are a lot of solutions to treat it.
Although rashes and bumps which are chafing-related can be easily treated with a chafing cream, bandages, disinfectants and moisturizers, still the perfect way to not get a chafe is to avoid them in the first place. Prevention is always better than cure, as the saying goes.
Here is a complete guide and the must-knows about chafe.
Causes of chafing
When there is a combination of constant rubbing and moisture, it causes the skin to be more particularly vulnerable to damage. The rubbing of two things together causes friction and this further irritates the skin which will make it chapped and blistered, creating a burning and painful sensation.
Chafe usually occurs when skin meets skin or if skin meets any fabric. Any area of the body wherein the skin comes in direct contact with other skin or fabric is most likely the hot-spot for a chafe or a blister.
The most common circumstances that causes chaffing are:
- Overweight. The extra body fat makes it easier for the skin to rub together. Take for example, if one has big inner thighs, friction is more likely to ensue in that certain are since it will be repeatedly rubbed together whether while walking, jogging or running. Although being overweight is one factor, being thin or not overweight does not mean that they are free from getting a chafe because chafing can happen to anyone.
- Breast-feeding moms. Mothers who breast-feed their babies usually experience chafed nipples from nursing pads and bras.
- Sports.Athletes are more prone to get a chafe because of repetitive movements, their choice of clothing and excess moisture due to sweating while doing their sport.
- Wearing a skirt or a dress. Most especially in humid conditions or weather, people who are fond of wearing skirts and dresses usually experience the chafing of their inner thighs.
- Loose clothes. One is actually more prone to getting a chafe when wearing loose-fitting clothes. It is most likely to constantly rub the skin causing it to get irritated and later on cause chafing.
- Sweat. Chafe can happen anytime, and it thrives when it is paired up with moisture. The common areas for sweating (underarms, thighs, groin) are the ideal places where a chafe can occur. Once sweat dries out, a layer of salt will be left on the skin which increases the chance of friction and further leading to getting a chafe.
- Environment. Humidity or rain makes you more prone to chafe especially when there is water between the skin and the clothes.
Tips to prevent chafing
As cliché at it may sound, but really, prevention is better than cure. This is absolutely true when it comes to chafing. Although chafing cannot always be avoided, the severity can be minimized by following these tips:
- Wear proper clothes when exercising. Well-fitted clothing and those which are fast-drying are the best clothes to wear. Synthetic fibres are recommended since they can whittle down friction, are lightweight and also dry quickly. On the other hand, cotton should be avoided at all costs because it tends to absorb moisture and stay wet longer compared to other fabrics.
- Moisture on the skin aggravates chaffing, so it is best to always keep dry. Powders and deodorants which are antiperspirants can be used and applied to areas where chaffing typically occurs (thighs, underarms, groin).
- Use lubrication to lessen friction. Applying chafing cream, petroleum jelly or even lotion to prone areas will minimize the friction, allowing the surface to glide or slide against each other.
- Apply soft and flexible bandages to areas which are chafe hot-spots such as the feet or nipples.
- When the sweat dries out, it crystalizes salt which will be left on the skin. This causes friction and can further cause a chafe. Washing after sweating is recommended.
- Take into consideration the weather when engaging in activities. Early morning or late evening are deemed to be the best times to avoid the hottest part of the day.
- Stay hydrated. It is best to drink liquids before, during and after workouts. If you are well-hydrated, your body will continue to sweat – when sweat production stops, the dried crystal salts from sweat will make you more prone to chafing.
Treating chafed areas
- Start by gently cleansing the chafed area with warm water (hot water can dry up the skin) and mild soap.
- Pat dry the area thoroughly and apply topical cream. Aloe Vera is best in helping to minimize or relieve pain and can also prevent infection.
- Apply a lubricant or a chafing cream over the irritated area to minimize further friction. There are a lot of lubricant or chafing creams available in stores and even online.
- Wear well-fitted clothes to protect the irritated area while it is still healing. This is to avoid further friction in the chafed area.
- Give yourself a time to heal. Rest and avoid going out for a little while.
- If home remedies are not applicable, such as in severe cases of chafing, it is recommended to go see a doctor who may treat it with a topical antibiotic or corticosteroid.